Skip to Content
Streetsblog USA home
Streetsblog USA home
Log In
Anthony Weiner

Take Back the Streets, for the Kids

stickbl4s.jpgAn article in Sunday's New York Times discussed the decline of stickball and other games on city streets:

The fun stopped, or moved inside, depending upon whom you ask, thanksto (pick two or three): television; two-income families;air-conditioning; digital technology; organized sports, crime; smallerfamilies and roomier apartments; too much homework and otherresponsibilities; diverse, less cohesive neighborhoods; and perhapsmost significantly, steady traffic, even on side streets.

Back in 2000, in response to an earlier Times article on the vanishing art of stickball, Park Slope resident Jeff Prant wrote a letter laying the blame squarely on cars. We're having trouble getting the link to the Times archives to work, but here's the salient passage:

We should remind ourselves, however, that these children's games didnot disappear because of lack of interest or a shift in demographics.They were forced out of existence by adult infatuation with automobiletravel.

On my block of Garfield Place, kids still enjoy playingoutdoors, but for them this means confinement to a five-foot strip ofsidewalk. Stickball or any other game played in the street would simplybe too dangerous to contemplate.

Our affection for the streetlife of New York's past could go beyond idle nostalgia if we take stepsto de-emphasize the auto in modern urban life and reclaim the street asa vital community resource. Today's children deserve the same safeaccess to our streets that an earlier generation remembers so fondly.

It may be on the wane on the streets, but stickball's place in New York lore seems secure -- an easily tapped well of nostalgia for politicians as well as newspapers. In his 2005 mayoral campaign, Rep. Anthony Weiner used an image of himself playing the iconic game (third ad from top) to promote his outer-borough everyman credentials. Now, of course, Weiner is a prime opponent of congestion pricing, one policy that might make the city's culture more friendly to street games once again.

If you're interested in the the games kids (and grown-ups) play outdoors, it's well worth checking out the excellent Streetplay site.

Photo: via Streetplay.com

Stay in touch

Sign up for our free newsletter

More from Streetsblog USA

Friday’s Headlines Go Back to the Future

If you liked the first Trump administration's transportation policies, you're going to love the second Trump administration's transportation policies.

July 19, 2024

Advocates Share What It Takes to Fight Highway Expansions in Court 

What does it take to sue your state DOT? Time, money, the right partners, and a little creativity, a recent survey of activists found.

July 19, 2024

Friday Video: Paris Does it Again

Come for the bike-friendly streets, but stay for adopt-a-tree program and all the car-free school roadways.

July 19, 2024

Talking Headways Podcast: IrrePLACEable

Kevin Kelley on his book Irreplaceable: How to Create Extraordinary Places that Bring People Together, and the future of downtowns.

July 18, 2024

This Heat Wave is a Car Dependency Problem

Our quickly warming planet has a unique impact on people who don't or can't drive — and we need policy action to protect their health.

July 18, 2024
See all posts